What are the SDGs, and why should I care?

All 17 Sustainable Development Goals

It’s time to think global, and act local

In 1969, Buckminster Fuller published a short book called ‘Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth’. The book likens the Earth to a spaceship: it has a finite amount of resources and cannot be resupplied. He encourages us to think outside of ‘specialisations’, and act as a global community in order to preserve our resources and keep our spaceship home running for a long as possible. This big-picture thinking goes against the way we often conceptualise ourselves, our institutions, governments and ultimately our planet; but it is not beyond our understanding. If we think of the Earth as a machine, which Fuller encourages us to do, we are responsible for its maintenance; if we do not keep it in good order, it will fail us.

The United Nations (UN) has identified 17 objectives that together provide a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet. The key idea that cuts across the idealism of Fuller and the pragmatism of the UN is this: we are all responsible for maintaining the planet, and we all benefit from doing so. All UN member states have a duty to strive towards the goals, which range from protecting the environment and providing sanitation to ending hunger and maintaining peace.

A grid showing all 17 Sustainable Development Goals
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals

The issue of sustainability is one that belongs to everybody because the issue of our environment and the depletion in resources is one that will affect generations to come, regardless of location. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution towards sustainable development. Everyone shares a responsibility to meet these goals, whether they are working as an individual, a community, an organisation or a government. For most of us, this means doing what we can locally to make an impact globally. For organisations like community foundations, this means empowering communities to take action.

Community Foundation staff wear matching pink hoodies. They stand in a line outside.

By acting locally, but thinking globally, we can all contribute to sustaining our planet and its people. The Sustainable Development Goals are a framework in which we can place ourselves in the global picture. If we are able to develop ourselves in better ways with greater consideration for each other and the planet, we can properly address the pressing crises of our day.